A market and out-of-town brunch venue
by Ron Swilling
Twelve kilometres outside Swakopmund on the B2 road to Windhoek, the D1901 gravel road snakes off towards the green belt of the ephemeral Swakop River. Every Saturday morning, Shalom Farm opens its gates to visitors, providing a vegetable market with fresh Swakop River produce and tables and chairs arranged on the green grass for guests to sit under the palm trees, have a cup of coffee, a bite to eat and luxuriate in the sunny farm atmosphere.
Before beginning their own weekly market, Werner and Christel Ermann sold their produce at the Camel Farm’s monthly Saturday market a few farms away. While the desert seems an odd venue for a vegetable market, Swakopmund specialities such as olives and asparagus grow in the sandy soil, surviving well on the brackish water, and peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers flourish in the greenhouses. As much of arid Namibia’s produce is transported all the way from South Africa, this source of fresh vegetables is a real find.
The Ermanns bought the Swakop River farm in 1997. They planted olive trees and asparagus, built greenhouses and transformed the dry farm into a green oasis. It was the Ermann’s dream to grow olive trees, and today 1 500 grace the Shalom farmland. Eight different cultivars are grown, ripening at various stages and used for table olives and olive oil. The Ermann’s cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil won the Marc Zichella Consumer’s Choice award in 2008. Christel experimented with many recipes for pickling table olives, and settled on her favourite. Today, bottles of olives and olive oil fill the market tables. The residue from the olive press is currently used for goat food, but the Ermanns are experimenting with it to see if it can be used to make fire briquettes.
In addition to the vegetables – which are harvested on the Friday before the market (the lettuce on the Saturday) – biscuits and breads, olive-oil soaps and skin creams are for sale, and local artists have the opportunity to display their art. Coffee, tea, cakes, brötchen, sandwiches and slices of quiche are offered at the food kiosk, the fare often including a German delicacy Rohhack, raw minced beef fillet spread on a bread roll.
The market begins at 10:00 and much of the produce is sold off quickly; the tables are half empty half an hour later. Then it is time to sit in the sunshine in the green garden, enjoying the food, chatting to friends and watching children play. Christel decorates all the tables with simple floral displays, and the combination of fresh vegetables, the garden setting and delicious fare make the Saturday market a pleasurable venue for a morning brunch out of town.
‘Shalom’ is the Hebrew word for ‘Peace’, and Christel takes pleasure in sharing the peace and the blessings of the farm on the Swakop River. She quotes the well-known saying: ‘The things that you share in Life, make you richer’.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘09/Jan ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.